We resigned from the Navy in 1995 to homeschool our children, Pamela and David. September 2007 is our 12-year anniversary of our first day of homeschooling. Pamela, 18, has autism and has taught me so much about her diffability. I will share ideas for people interested in homeschooling autistic children and for people supporting them. I dedicate this page to all those kids who ought to be home!
Pamela had no verbal language at the age of three, but signed a few words. We have tried many things to develop her language and the top three most effective for Pamela are the gluten-free, casein-free diet, the association method, a Charlotte Mason style language arts program, and a lone-ranger Relationship Development Intervention program. At eighteen, she is verbal and enjoys talking about her favorite interests. She reads, writes, and produces neat artwork, all featured on her web page. She continues to learn and do new things all the time and is proof-positive that the window of opportunity is open longer than the experts think.
Her latest feat is memorizing and reciting poetry, something beyond her reach a year ago. In the following video clip, Pamela recites one of her favorites by A. A. Milne, The End. I filmed her recitation on my digital camera, and David edited it with Windows Movie Maker and added Narnian music (track 4) as a birthday gift for their grandfather. Click here to see it!
Tammy is a blogging what daily life is like when homeschooling someone in the autism spectrum. To read our latest post in Aut-2B-Home in Carolina, click here. She also just launched the Aut-2B-Home blogring for bloggers who homeschool their autism spectrum children. If you are one, join by clicking here.
We have attended workshops and read extensively about the best programs available for children with autism: sensory integration, social stories, TEACCH, ABA, patterning, AIT, and learning styles. We have studied books and online resources for others: association method and RDI.
We have linked up with a great youth group that allows our daughter to be truly included with peers and kids of a variety of ages in a loving environment.
We have focused on her unique strengths, interests, and abilities to help her compensate for her weaknesses, allowing success to inspire more success.
People always ask about autism and the dreaded "s" word. Children with moderate to severe autism are usually placed in special ed. They are often lumped with emotionally disturbed children, not peers with good social skills. Homeschoolers join inclusive activities with good social role models like support group activities, church, youth groups, lessons (music, sports, art), etc.
Most spectrum children are hypersensitive to sound, hindering inclusion. A room with 22 kids is loud, blocking focus. Homeschoolers have quiet when learning and can master coping skills in small doses of stressful noisy settings.
During class time, children are usually asked to sit at desks and are forbidden to socialize. Schools foster meeting large numbers of peers, but limits quality socialization (1:1 interaction between people who share interests, rather than common labels or ages).
Schools permit quality socialization during gym, recess, and lunch--difficult for autistic children due to noise and chaos. Homeschooling parents select social settings to minimize distractions and maximize the child's talents.
We do not socialize in groups of 22 people exactly our ages. Adult auties socialize like us--with people of different ages who share interests. Homeschoolers see more natural socialization : shopping, church, interests, libraries, family events, etc. Pamela has just performed in a musical with preschoolers to seasoned citizens!
Ignorant teachers and peers, bullies in particular,are not proper social models (wonderful teachers are treasures). Some autistic children are ignored, abused, and teased by cruel people. Through age-lumping, autistic children stick out so much they can become bully magnets. Homeschoolers are less peer dependent because they meet many kinds of people.
The benefits of homeschooling are long-lasting! Research shows that homeschooled kids have significantly lower problem behavior scores than non-homeschooled peers! Adults who were homeschooled tend to be more civicly active (almost double the rate of typical adults).
Pamela, our autistic daughter, is fully included in many social activities with her peers as well as with people of all backgrounds and ages. On busy days, we have to buckle down to fit academics into our social schedule!
De-school to allow the child to own his learning: provide material (software, books, videos, etc.) to nurture interests and hobbies. It's also called de-toxing. While they de-tox, you can prioritize your life!
While de-schooling, contact homeschoolers locally and online, research state homeschooling laws (HEM, HSLDA, NHEN), review educational/medical records, watch how he learns best, and note sensory needs, strengths, interests, and weaknesses.
Keep a journal: What is he doing when happiest? What helps him focus? In what activities does he excel? Is he lost without structure and schedules or does he bask in deschooling's freedom? How does he memorize (visually, orally or moving)? Does he need hands-on learning or discuss to death his ideas? Does he need the big picture first or does he target the facts?
Read books beyond autism! Read about learning styles to figure out how you and your child learn best: The Way They Learn , Every Child Can Succeed , Seven Kinds of Smart , or Discover Your Child's Learning Style .
De-program yourself about what is an education and read some eye-opening books: So, You're Thinking about Homeschooling , The Homeschooling Handbook , A Charlotte Mason Companion , For the Children's Sake , and Dumbing Us Down .
Familiarize yourself with how other families our homeschooling their special needs children: Choosing Home: Deciding to Homeschool with Asperger's Syndrome , Homeschooling the Child with Asperger Syndrome , Home Educating Our Autistic Spectrum Children , Homeschooling the ADD Child (Or Other Special Needs) , Learning in Spite of Labels , and Choosing and Using Curriculum for Your Special Child .
Determine where your child is on developmental checklists and evaluations: developmental milestones, World Book Typical Course of Study, Teaching Children: A Curriculum Guide , Home Learning Year by Year , Life Skills for Vocational Success, and Core Knowledge books (What Your ____ Grader Needs to Know). Set goals for the next step. Inspire success with more success through his strengths and interests.
Don't drive yourself crazy with checklists! If a goal frustrates him, table it for later. In intensive states requiring lots of paperwork, document his effort and explain why you postponed the goal.
All children are scattered in grade level! My autistic daughter taught herself how to swing and draw (after years of my failure as a teacher), use a search engine, understand Roman numerals (throught 2006), and contractions. My neuro-typical son taught himself alphabet and number recognition at the age of three and sight reading at the age of four!
Do not do school at home! Match programs with your child's learning style. Even wonderful curriculums bring tears if the method frustrates your child. Homeschoolers often invest wasted money on terrific programs, but discard them months later due to learning style mismatch.
Locate sources for therapies and services: public school, private therapists, educational consultants, insurance or college students. Some public schools balk against therapy for homeschoolers, requiring you to take legal action. Learn how to provide some therapies at home through books, conferences, and knowledgeable people.
Design record-keeping that works for you and satisfies your state. Intensive states require daily logs, IEPs, portfolios, evaluations, and testing. Other states require minimal information, but keep records for legal situations.
Develop a thick skin for people who disapprove of your decision. Most see the merits of homeschooling when they see results. Others believe the myths and will never approve. Remember, most successful educational techniques for teaching autistic children have several characteristics in common: 1:1 teaching with an involved parent in the home, adapted to sensory needs . Homeschooling has all these characteristics!
Historically, education of children has been the responsibility of parents and guardians for they will have to reap the fruit of the seeds they sow! While the idea behind a compulsory education is noble, the results have been disastrous for too many children.
Teach in ways that make sense for your child, not you! My son and I are polar opposites in style. Homeschooling frustrated us both until I stopped forcing him to learn my way. Supporting his way spurred him to learn.
Change something that does not work. The beauty of homeschooling is you can adjust your program without IEP meetings. Stay calm during temporary regressions: veteran homeschoolers see a pattern of stall and leap to learn new skills. As the child processes new skills, he puts the old ones on hold. It might help you to search for reasons why!
Remember your child is fully included in the community! When ready, slowly introduce him to homeschooling support group activities (field trips, special events and co-operatives), youth groups, sports, etc. Chat with parents about autism, focusing on why he does what he does. Conduct autism awareness training with his peers.
Homeschool support groups exist even in rural towns. Contact state support groups and request a list of local groups. Homeschool Legal Defense Association lists Christian groups, while a mix can be found through Home-Ed Magazine, National Home Education Network, or Jon's Homeschool Resource Page.
Some message boards are dedicated to homeschooling children with special needs. A favorite is Veg Source.
Numerous email lists are devoted to homeschooling children in the autism spectrum, each serving a unique niche. For all you sequential thinkers, I sorted the list by number of messages (top to bottom, then left to right--Aut-2B-Home is the busiest, while Developmental Delays is the quietest):
The ME List
Learning at Home
HS Special Needs Kids
AS You Like It
HS Kids Special Needs
Yes, homeschooing is legal in all 50 states and many countries. Check the web sites of other homeschoolers with autism spectrum children who have witnessed the advantages of homeschooling their special kids. Please email me with your web site address if you are a family homeschooling a child in the autism spectrum and you wish to be added to this list:
Aut-2B-Home in Carolina Blog
Black Pearl Academy Blog
Brown's Reel Art
Ernestus' Numism Page
Gail's Flower Farm Page
Hall Family Blog
High Content Games
Holly T's Blog
Kathy's Bead Designs
Lisa Jo: about.com Editor
Loving and Learning Blog
Mary Martin Pre-Paid Legal
Masterpiece Theater Blog
Milly's Gift Shop
Modern Ed Failed Us Blog
Mom Embracing Autism Blog
Monica's Disability News Radio
Our Lady of Providence
I chose a Charlotte Mason style of education because I enjoy reading books. Fortunately, my two children love books, too! Every time we move, the packer always scratches his head and says, "You sure do have a lot of books!" The following books about autism have inspired me the most in my journey with Pamela:
Emergence: Labeled Autistic
Thinking in Pictures
Animals in Translation
There's a Boy in Here
Solving the Relationship Puzzle
RDI Manual I
RDI Manual II
Teach Language-Deficient Kids
Homeschooling Child with AS
Home Educating Our AS Kids
Unravel Mystery of Autism
Bio Treatments for Autism
Sound of a Miracle
The Sensory Connection
Out of Sync Child
Eventually, I yearned to move beyond reading everything on the market about autism and to think more about lifestyle, education, and family. While many of these books are classic children's books, they caused me to pause and reflect about what a life-long learner really is. Reading books that make me think clearly and feel deeply is what Karen Andreola calls Mother Culture. The right books bring a "calming influence to the heart" (pg. 33):
The Secret Garden
Children of New Forest
Jack and Jill
Story of My Life
Man Who Mistook His Wife
Anthropologist on Mars
Carry a Big Stick
For the Children's Sake
Charlotte Mason Companion
When Children Love to Learn
The Way They Learn
How Children Learn
How Children Fail
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Steve and Tammy own these photographs, except for the school pictures. Animated sheep courtesy of Gif's.net. Animated smileys courtesy of Free 3-D Smileys. Tammy writes the code for all her pages, which are best viewed on Firefox--it is FREE, so get it!